Audio Review: A.S. Fanning – Mushroom Cloud

Posted 11 months ago in Music Reviews

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

This, the third album from self-confessed miserablist A.S. Fanning finds the Dublin-born singer-songwriter (relocated to Berlin since 2011) picking over the bones of a failed relationship in an uncertain post-Covid and possibly pre-apocalyptic world, to suitably morose effect. Luckily, on the resulting eight-song LP, its creator remembers to stare into the abyss to the accompaniment of at least a few decent tunes.

Things get off to a suitably downcast start with the title track. “We don’t even fight no more,” is the damning observation on burnt-out love that sets the tone for a record of doomed, desperate balladry which, whilst impeccably produced and performed, occasionally lacks the killer hook that might save it from the threat of collapse under its own sheer weight. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot here to enjoy. Conman rocks most satisfactorily, thanks to some wonderfully discordant guitars and a distressed-sounding 808, while Haunted is the obvious candidate for single status here; an ‘80s-flavoured baritone pop confection sporting a surprisingly jaunty chorus.

Elsewhere, inevitable comparisons to The National will surely greet Sober, a country-tinged self-lacerating ballad which subtly acknowledges Lee Hazlewood in its reference to “Swedish cowboy songs” and, although you may begin to suspect that this record is just a little too much in hock to its obvious antecedents (those by Walker, Cohen, Cave, etc.) you have to concede that it does what it does for the most part rather well. “The arc of human history bends towards misery,” Fanning sings on I Feel Bad, possibly paraphrasing MLK, and at least you can’t say he’s not being honest with you. If the music possibly strays a little too far over the line into self-pity on Disease and album closer Pink Morning/Magic Light, it’s all done with consummate taste. Fans of the aforementioned dons of doom will find plenty to be exquisitely miserable about here, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

A.S. Fanning – Mushroom Cloud

[K&F Records]

Words: Paul McLoone


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